European two-wheeler makers are on a roll. They aren’t achieving the sales volumes the Japanese juggernaut manages, but leading European firms like BMW Motorrad, Ducati and KTM are certainly pulling back lost ground in terms of making outstanding new motorcycles.
BMW has only recently started importing its 800cc plus bike range into India. Top of the line perches their K 1600 GT super-tourer, a motorcycle that occupies more than its fair share of road. Muscular, broad shouldered proportions tucked under a fairing, this handsome BMW looks every bit the super-tourer it is.
Clever technology is evident in how the big K’s adaptive xenon headlight system works. And dabbing on a button raises or lowers its wind deflector to isolate you from wind or rain. There’s a remote locking system, and you can opt for satellite navigation as well as an audio system with your GT. Broad, clear to read instruments sit between four speakers, with twin circles giving you speed and a tachometer.
The switches also activate cruise-control, a hazard warning and engine kill, apart from a wide variety of riding mode options. In addition to which you can find a novel, rotary wheel on the left, rotating in clicks to select menus, or pushing left and right to enter a selection. The palm grips are supple and comfortable. Our ride included over 200kms of rain soaked, windy stretches with temperatures hovering under 10 degrees Celcius, where the heated grips and saddle stepped in to provide reasonable comfort.
The K 1600 GT’s riding saddle gave us no reason to complain. Its twin silencers are impressive with their six exit vents. The K 1600 GT offers impressive quality, lockable and waterproof panniers effortlessly swallow vast quantities of baggage.
Fantastic overall quality and excellent fit-and-finish all-round are sure to do even the most discerning K 1600 GT owner proud. This is one of very few production motorcycles ever to use a six-pot powerplant. BMW Motorrad couldn’t have picked a more apt motorcycle than a tourer like the K 1600 GT to benefit from this amazing engine, the most compact six-cylinder engine BMW ever made.
It comes with e-gas, BMW’s ride-by-wire throttle system, and offers a selection between Rain, Road and Dynamic engine mapping modes, in addition to which a shaft drive arrangement transfers power to the rear wheel.
The K 1600 GT sounds fantastic. It’s so smooth and vibe free, you’d be forgiven for fantasizing your throttle was revving the engine on a bike next to yours. Throttle response is progressive for a bike that makes 160.4bhp at 7750rpm and smooth in every mode, with a sharp, perceptible edge when riding outside the ‘soft’ rain mode. Wads of torque are available from low rpm, to a prodigious peak of 17.8kgm, unleashed at 5250rpm. Unlike most bikes that make this kind of serious power, the K 1600 GT feels so refined, with such a broad, linear and useable powerband that we found it possible to crack the whip, take and then hold the GT at its limit. 200kph is easily achieved, the big K able to cruise lazily upto 150kph. Traction control works brilliantly, never intruding on riding pleasure. The K 1600 GT gearbox shifts smoothly in the one-down, five-up pattern, and neutral is easy to find.
The K 1600 GT’s riding position is just right, not boring like the more upright GTL variant which we also sat on and sampled. You sit upright, but in a slightly more aggressive stance which allows much better control.
Handling and ride quality are remarkably enjoyable for a hefty 332kg motorcycle. Suspension is BMW Motorrad’s clever Duolever system with a single strut in front, and Paralever shaft-drive arrangement holding at rear. Electronic suspension adjustment gives you Sport, Normal and Comfort suspension selections, apart from further load settings to allow fine tuning when hauling a pillion or loaded panniers.
The GT proved over diverse roads during our lengthy ride that it can deliver astonishing handling for such a big motorcycle, even with panniers stuffed to the hilt. The bike ripped confidently round tight mountain corners almost as smartly poised as a sportsbike, its tyres providing prodigious grip at all times.
The brakes are ABS enabled, and worked with excellent feel, solid power and strong bite throughout our ride.A fantastic engine, coupled with such fine dynamics makes the K 1600 GT unrivaled as a really quick, long distance mile-muncher, a bike that makes big not so bothersome a word as it used to be in the evolving world of motorcycles.
You’ve only to ride the BMW K 1600 GT to understand how this big motorcycle has redefined the super-cruiser class. The solidly engineered K 1600 GT lacks nothing by way of features, offers an unmatched engine with serious performance and all the perks of a plush long distance runner, all this without slaughtering sweet handling on the altar of supreme comfort.
The K 1600 GT is one special motorcycle, the very best touring motorcycle on the planet today. Read the complete story in Autocar India’s August 2011 issue.